Shipping Things to Vietnam: A Warning
Importing any goods into any country is, of course, subject to certain restrictions and prohibitions.
In this respect Vietnam is no different. In order to check the prohibited and restricted items, the British Royal Mail website (royalmail.com/viet-nam), has some useful information. In addition to this, it is worth remembering that the country of origin will also have regulations as to what can and what cannot be exported.
It is almost always safer to use one of the recognised courier companies like FedEx, DHL or UPS, rather than unknown companies or the postal service. Things have a habit of getting “lost” as soon as they hit the country. Using a courier will cost you more, but at least it will arrive.
"Professional courier services can be expensive but prove to be the most secure method."
It is also worth remembering that your parcel will more than likely be opened by customs as soon as it hits Vietnam. So accurate labelling as to the contents is important. You don’t want to fall foul of customs services here. They deliver a white slip of paper informing you that a parcel has arrived and that it must be collected from an exact location within a certain time frame. If you happen to be travelling when this happens and miss the deadline, your parcel will be sent back to whence it came and the sender will be liable for charges. Also the internet is full of horror stories when it comes to the postal service. People can sometimes get bounced around from one post office to the next before finally finding their item, only to be informed that ridiculously high import duties are liable, before the parcel will be released.
"Miss your collection time and your parcel will be sent back to its place of origin."
Photo by: SpirosK photography
The problem is not restricted to Vietnam - this seems to be relevant for all of Southeast Asia. When I emigrated to Thailand in 2008, I put all the things that mattered to me in a rather nice chest of drawers and paid a courier company in the UK £170 to ship it out. I was told that the fee charged in the UK covered all import duties in the destination country. It arrived about three months later and I was told to go to the docks to collect it. I duly arrived at the customs office and was told that the import duty was well over $5,000 dollars. The whole lot was worth nowhere near that. Despite things of sentimental value, I decided against it and lost the lot forever. No doubt the customs guys had a great time sharing it all out.
The problems don’t end here either. Many people, upon hearing of the shortcomings of the Vietnamese postal service, decide to simply put valuable items on a plane when they are travelling out to Vietnam. However, putting anything valuable in the hold of an aircraft is never a good idea, and not just in Vietnam. By 2014, airlines were losing almost 22 million items of luggage per year, and that was down by more than half on the staggering figure of 47 million in 2007 (The Wall Street Journal).
Whilst only one in every 2,000 mishandled bags is lost forever (The Independent) that still represents more than 10,000 items per year that are never reunited with their owners. In 2008, Essex CID conducted Operation Bruno, which led to the arrest of 22 baggage handlers at London’s Stansted Airport, who were caught stealing from luggage.
"Airlines are losing almost 22 million items of luggage per year."
I hate to sound so negative about all this but the only safe way to get your valuable items arriving safely at their destination is to use one of the well known reputable companies, as named above, or to hand carry it on the plane yourself and never let it out of your sight. Letting it out of your sight opens up a whole new level of airline theft. Passengers have been reporting items stolen from hand luggage in increasing numbers. In 2012 Vietnam airlines reported 28 cases of valuables stolen from hand luggage. In 2013 nine thieves were caught in the act (Vietnam.net).
The bottom line is, unless it is imperative, don’t bother. The costs are high and the risks are higher. Using reputable courier services is definitely the way to go; or if you can, carry it on board your flight and sit on it!
Header photo by: Niklas Morberg